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Controversial farm laws triggered huge Farmers’ protest in India

Decades of crippling debt, drought and falling income have hit India‘s countryside hard and left the future of Indian farming in jeopardy. Recently, thousands of Indian farmers are demanding government intervention to help check dwindling farm income. In this regard, they began 10-day protests on Friday, demanding higher prices for produce and farm loan waivers. Famer organizations across India are up in arms against the farm bills notified by the government on Sunday after President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent. The three bills are- The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 – have now become acts. According to the opposition parties, the bills were passed “unconstitutionally” in “complete disregard” of parliamentary norms and are anti-farmer and corporate-friendly.

The crux of the issue is farmers’ demand for the minimum support price (MSP), the price at which the government buys farm produce. According to the data compiled by the farmers’ federation, at least 94 per cent of farmers sell their produce below MSP. However; Economists argue that farm loan waivers might distort the credit cycle and that subsidy is a band-aid not a solution to the agriculture crisis. This marks the third major protest by farmers in less than a year. In March, more than 40,000 marched from far-flung districts in the state of Maharashtra, to reach the seat of government in the state capital.

While several farmers at various places in India started gathering at roads for stopping the movement of traffic; women protesters under the banner of different committees took out protest marches. Shops and commercial establishments at many places in remained shut till date in the wake of farmers’ stir. Many shopkeepers in various parts of the country had promised to keep their shops shut in support of farmers to show solidarity in the moment of need. Many farmers are requesting their committee members along with others to observe Bandh-diwas (lockdown). Till date, many parts of the big cities in India are voluntarily closed.

While it is logical for farmers to ask for a guaranteed minimum income for their production during these unprecedented times, but what’s not logical is government’s lack of communication betwixt the ongoing protests in the country, triggered by the three bills passed in parliament last Sunday.

“We need freedom from debt. We are not asking for the dole, we are not criminals. The farmer is in debt today not because he has messed up but because of the flawed policies of the government,” Kohar who is based in Sonepat, Haryana shared the information.

Farmers are fighting for survival, said Abhimanyu Kohar, national coordinator of the protest organisers, the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (National Farmers Big Union).

On Monday, 15 to 20 persons had gathered at the central Delhi location, sometime between 7:15 AM and 7:30 AM and set the old tractor on fire. Huge farmers’ protests have been held over the laws, especially in Punjab and Haryana states of India.

“Today at around 7:15 AM, some (15-20) persons carrying tractor in Tata 407 vehicle came at Rajpath, Man Singh Crossing. They offloaded the tractor and tried to set it ablaze. They claimed to be members of Youth Congress Punjab,” Delhi Police said in a statement. According to the police, the protesters had raised pro-Congress slogans. “Today’s protest was symbolic and we take responsibility,” tweeted Brinder Dhillon, president of Punjab Youth Congress.

By Karishma Gwalani

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